The good news is Secretary of State Todd Rokita didn't use taxpayer dollars to pay for his trip to Switzerland.
That also may be the bad news.
Rokita, whose job as secretary of state includes Indiana's securities and business services divisions, appealed to corporations to fund his trip. The Indiana Energy Association -- a trade group that includes 15 utilities, including Indianapolis Power & Light Co., and is headed by former Secretary of State Ed Simcox -- ponied up $10,000.
Rokita, who left May 29 and returns Monday, sent a letter March 13 to Simcox, soliciting the money so he could pursue some economic development projects.
Simcox responded with a check and a letter telling Rokita he "appreciated our friendship."
Jerold Bonnet, Rokita's general counsel, said Rokita attended an international business conference at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland from May 30 to June 2. Since then, Rokita has traveled around having meetings with such groups as the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce, Nestle and the Swiss Bankers Association.
Bonnet said the secretary of state's office does not regulate the energy association and only indirectly regulates its members. This situation, he said, was no different than when businesses donate money to renovate the governor's residence or fund activities at public schools.
Julia Vaughn, policy director for the watchdog group Common Cause/Indiana, called the solicitation "completely inappropriate."
"For the secretary of state to be out shilling for dollars among the corporate community, people who in theory he has some oversight over, is outrageous," she said. "The trip itself is highly questionable as being in any way related to his official duties."
Rokita, calling from the Zurich airport, said he didn't "see any ethical violation here. The taxpayers aren't picking up the tab."
"I'm going to want to do this when we can to stick our oar in the water and pull ahead and do some things other secretaries of state haven't done before," he said.
Observant AI readers may recall that members of Simcox' organization were prominent participants in Gov. Daniels' recent trade mission to Europe. Simcox' nephew, Nate Feltman, is the head of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. When I used to lobby the legislature several years ago, Simcox was always popular among legislators, and I assure you it had nothing to do with his bad hair piece. Rather, the floor seats he had to every Pacers game were ever the hot commodity. When he wasn't handing out Pacer tickets, he was leading lawmakers in prayer sessions at the State House. You have to give the guy credit, he knows how to peddle influence.